Book note on Infinite Jest: Quality

I watched the first season of Simon Rich’s Man Seeking Woman this week. There’s a clip where Josh is preparing his apartment and Infinite Jest is one of the books he arranges for display. I finished reading Infinite Jest around this time last year. (According to my calendar, my free time was primarily occupied with reading Infinite Jest and playing Counter-Strike: GO. Not a bad month.)

I was mostly reading the softcover but I picked a Kindle version up to read on-the-go. So I do have some things highlighted for the Kindle version:

“[…] He said she had a face that’d break your heart and then also break the heart of whoever like rushed over to your aid as you pitched over sideways grabbing your chest.”

I highlighted things that I thought were well written. In a sense, they’re sentences written in a way that I’d like to write. I know I’ll never get to David Foster Wallace’s mastery of English. (“Especially with that attitude! Never say never.” This is one of those actual nevers that’s just plain true.) If I can write anything even, say, 5% as good, I’ll be happy.

A good way to start is probably looking at some more things he’s written that I enjoy. It’s good to review for inspiration.

I picked some clothing up and began separating it by smell into wearable and unwearable.

I recently wrote about the phrase “Only emotion endures”. Something I enjoyed throughout Infinite Jest is how fun the descriptions are of ordinary activity. I know what sorting clothes by smell is like. It happens. It makes me think of underpacking for vacations. Or times where laundromat trips have been scheduled a little too far apart.

He was never what you’d call a ladies’ man. At parties he was always at the center of the crowd that drank instead of dancing.

It’s a great description. You get a broad sense of his physical appearance and his personality. It’s a deep look because you know someone that’s in the drinking-not-dancing crowd.

I’ve been reading Simon Rich’s work and enjoying the absurdist humor. Infinite Jest has its fair share:

Already carrying 230 pounds and bench-pressing well over that, Gately clocked a 4.4 40 in 7th grade, and the legend is that the Beverly Middle School coach ran even faster than that into the locker room to jack off over the stopwatch.

I’d like to know if a joke like that just came to him or if he had to work it multiple times and rewrite it. I have 170 other highlights in the book, and it was fun skimming the list. I’d like to write things that make people smile the way I smiled many many times while reading Infinite Jest.